As the days tick off of August, and the hockey world rises from its slumber, early projections for the coming season are starting to hit the airwaves. The Dallas Stars are emerging as a popular pick to win the Central Division, win the Western Conference, win the Stanley Cup, and outdo their point total from last season.
The last time Dallas was this favored in the national media picture was the year after the Stars charged their way to the top of the regular season Western Conference standings before imploding in the second round versus the St. Louis Blues.
The Stars are in a similar position this year, although they had to fight tooth and nail to make the playoffs last season instead of coasting to the top of the board as they did in the 2016 season. Both teams got to the second round of the playoffs and eventually lost to the Blues. Unlike 2016 when goaltending and defense proved to be the ultimate undoing of that squad, last year’s team was undone by their cumulative inability to score goals when it mattered — they had that defense and goaltending firmly on lock, though.
With basically most of the same key players coming back this season, a relatively young and strong blueline, a Vezina-caliber goaltender, and the addition of veterans like Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry added up front, it’s not beyond the realm of reason that the Stars look to be a true threat in the West. What might be more surprising, though, is how much the national media is noticing this non-traditional market’s team. Considering more than 30 PHWA voting members left Miro Heiskanen off their ballots completely last season, you can understand how it’s a bit of a surprise that the hockey media is paying attention to what’s happening now in Big D.
The latest Vegas betting odds surrounding the Stars include:
18-to-1 to win the Stanley Cup (7th best odds in the league today)
96.5 points - the over/under line for the regular season points for the Stars. Last year they opened at 94.5, so they’ve ticked up by two — tied with the Cup champion Blues for third in the Division behind Colorado (98.5) and Nashville (97.5).
9-to-1 to win the West (tied for 5th best odds in the conference)
NHL.com has their fantasy hockey preview of the Central Division out, which includes Ben Bishop and Tyler Seguin among top-10 fantasy players in the division. Jamie Benn is considered a bounce-back candidate, Roope Hintz is labeled a sleeper pick, and Perry as a deep sleeper candidate.
The Athletic has Dallas ranked the closest of all Central Division teams to the Blues that just won the Cup, with the Stars getting credit for strong contract efficiency, playoff scar tissue, a balance of age across the roster, size and skill on defense, and half-credit on having a game-breaker (arguable point there, to be honest).
Nick Cotsonika and Pete Jensen pick the Stars as the best team in the Central.
NBCSports thinks Dallas could be dangerous in the Central Division if they get some scoring going (accurate, and the big “if” asked across Stars land this offseason).
Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) has modeled the teams for this season, and his point projections put Dallas on top out West.
Here are the points predictions I'm submitting to @domluszczyszyn's survey for @TheAthleticNHL.— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) August 25, 2019
You can find the link to Dom's survey to submit your own predictions here: https://t.co/cdB3oVKTBX pic.twitter.com/eawtRqltyF
As the season gets closer, more predictions about how the season will go will come out. It’s likely, based on these early results, that Dallas will be mentioned across the board as some sleeper pick to go all the way this season.
The trick, of course, is whether Dallas will live up to the hype. Last time, they were decimated by injuries and finished outside of the playoffs, sparking the firing of head coach Lindy Ruff and starting the coaching carousel that Dallas has been on the past few seasons. Maybe this time will be different.